Feeling ick about Amazon? Alternatives for a positive Christmas

From the Guardian’s Alternatives to Amazon: MPs spread seasonal boycott message:

Big high street/online retail names: Four were singled out for praise: Debenhams, John Lewis, Next and Lush.

“Bookshops: Researchers rated 22. The two top-scoring names were online charity bookstore Green Metropolis, and Oxfam. Close behind was Better World Books, which works in partnership with literacy charities, followed by eBooks.com, Books etc, our very own Guardian Bookshop and The Book People. Foyles scores pretty well, as does WH Smith, Waterstones and Blackwell’s.”

Amazon aren’t always the cheapest option anyway – you can compare prices for specific books + delivery on booko.co.uk.

And as for why people might be boycotting Amazon, check out Ethical cosmetics company Lush takes ‘bullying’ Amazon to court and My week as an Amazon insider:

“It’s taxes, of course, that pay for the roads on which Amazon’s delivery trucks drive, and the schools in which its employees are educated, and the hospitals in which their babies are born and their arteries are patched up, and in which, one day, they may be nursed in their dying days. Taxes that all its workers pay, and that, it emerged in 2012, it tends not to pay. On UK sales of £4.2bn in 2012, it paid £3.2m in corporation tax. In 2006, it transferred its UK business to Luxembourg and reclassified its UK operation as simply “order fulfilment” business. The Luxembourg office employs 380 people. The UK operation employs 21,000. You do the math.

Brad Stone tells me that tax avoidance is built into the company’s DNA. From the very beginning it has been “constitutionally oriented to securing every possible advantage for its customers, setting the lowest possible prices, taking advantage of every known tax loophole or creating new ones”. It’s something that Mark Constantine, the co-founder of Lush cosmetics, has spent time thinking about. He refuses to sell through Amazon, but it didn’t stop Amazon using the Lush name to direct buyers to its site, where it suggested alternative products they might like.”

Ethical fashion directory

The Guardian have produced an ‘ethical fashion directory’. It’s a little tricksy – click on titles and random new windows open, and you have to click on an image to view different sorts of clothes (which opens new windows in the background, not always obvious), but it’s still useful: Ethical fashion directory.

Over the past few years I’ve frequently heard people say “Well I’d love to buy more ethical fashion, but I’ve no idea where to start …” Here is our solution. Our directory will provide, I hope, a means of navigating the sometimes confusing world of ethical fashion and make it easy for you, the consumer, to find exactly what you are looking for.

Boris arts spin – or does Boris have the ability to go back in time?

I was so annoyed and bemused by something I read in today’s Urban Junkies London newsletter that I wrote to them.

I am really curious about today’s mailout, which says “Boris has temporarily come to the rescue. His launch of “Lates “” – but UJ have been promoting Lates at various venues for months, so you must know that the Lates initiative was already up and running when Ken was mayor.
I’m really disappointed – I know spin is everything and the truth means little in politics these days but I didn’t expect to see it in Urban Junkies.

It’s hugely ironic because Boris is probably going to have a huge negative impact on the arts in London. How dare his office try to claim an existing and well-established program started by the previous mayor as “Boris’ Lates”?
I’ll take everything I read in Urban Junkies with a pinch of salt now. I already did, to an extent, because their editorial direction was so clearly influenced by their advertisers, but at least it was obvious – when there was a huge ad banner followed by a big push in the text, you knew how to read between the lines. And Urban Junkies ran Lates ad campaigns before Boris was mayor, so I don’t see how they could claim ignorance of the prior existence of the Lates program.

Fictional cities

I randomly came across ‘Fictional Cities‘ while looking for something else.

We all have our favourite places and favourite stories about them. Our idea of these places is usually a mix of experience and imagination, and fiction is usually no small contributor to our mental maps.
I love London, Venice and Florence, so I made this site, with lists and reviews of all sorts of fiction set in these three cities.

A small geek grump with Domain Registry of America and phpwebhosting

I got mail (actual physical mail) from the “Domain Registry of America” ( this week, telling me that some of my domains were due for renewal.
Which would be great, except I don’t actually use them for my domains and their ‘renewal’ form is actually a ‘switch to us’ form. The language is all carefully written so it’s legal, but to the casual reader it’s just a ‘domain name expiration notice’. I think it’s just this side of a scam that takes advantage of people’s general confusion about technical stuff.
Also on my grump list is phpwebhosting.com, who haven’t responded to helpdesk calls for well over a week – so I haven’t had email in *ages*. I’m going to switch hosts this week, I’m just waiting on confirmation of ssh access.